By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
While Braden Vaughan is ready to start his college football career, he acknowledges basketball will be tough to give up.
Vaughan and Tony Clements are Texico’s representatives on the South squad in the New Mexico High School Coaches Association’s 27th annual Class 1-2A boys North-South All-Star basketball game, scheduled for 6 p.m. tonight at The Pit on the campus of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.
Former Floyd coach Jeff Gillespie is the South’s head coach, with Dickie Roybal of Melrose serving as his assistant.
In a few days, Vaughan will leave for Division III Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, and the start of football two-a-days. For now, though, he wants to relish the moment.
“I just want to enjoy the atmosphere,” the 6-foot-2, 230-pound forward said. “I’m definitely going to miss basketball and all the other sports I did (in high school).”
Vaughan quarterbacked the Wolverines to the Class 1A state football finals each of his last three seasons, including championships the past two years. He also played linebacker on defense.
He’s not sure whether he’ll play offense or defense in college. “I actually got fitted for both defensive pads and offensive pads,” he said.
Clements, who plans to try to walk on in football at Eastern New Mexico University, enjoyed a strong senior campaign in football and basketball after missing his junior year due to a knee injury sustained in a summer basketball league game. Like Vaughan, he helped the Wolverines reach the first round of the Class 2A state basketball tournament, where they were eliminated by Mesa Vista.
“I’m kind of glad to get a chance to play some basketball, since our season ended so bad,” Clements said. “I’ve always wanted to play (at The Pit), but we always came up short (at state).”
He said coming back from the injury, in which he tore his ACL and MCL, proved challenging.
“It was hard at first, but I got back into the flow,” Clements said. “I was a little hesitant to do some things at first, but after a while I just blocked it out of my mind.”
Gillespie, a Clovis resident, has taken a job as a coach and teacher at Yucca Junior High after spending two years at Grady and three at Floyd.
“It took up a lot of my time doing all three sports (football, basketball and track),” he said of the small-school jobs. “I’ve spent more time with my kids this summer than I have in a long time.”
Roybal, Melrose’s head football coach and an assistant to Casey Pack in basketball, said the athletes have the spotlight in a game like this.
“It’s a fun game,” he said. “We’ve got 12 good athletes, and it’s just fun to compete.”
There won’t be any elaborate strategy in this game, Gillespie confirmed.
“There’s not a lot of time to put in a lot of stuff,” he said. “A lot of it is just run and gun.”
Vaughan said the coaches have kept things pretty loose.
“I know both those guys pretty well,” he said. “I’m sure it’s going to be a lot of fun.”